Not just parties, regional issues too fight for national space

April 21st, 2009 - 11:35 am ICT by IANS  

Bahujan Samaj Party By Darshan Desai
New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) Regional issues formed a large percentage of questions raised in parliament in the last four years.

A study by the independent PRS Legislative Research has found that almost 25 percent of all debates in both houses of parliament between 2004 and 2008 were on regional issues.

The study found that 51 percent of the debates raised by MPs from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were about local issues although it was a key member of the ruling coalition.

A third of all discussions by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) related to regional problems. Similarly, 47 percent of all debates raised by MPs from Jharkhand were on local matters.

Twenty-six percent of all debates raised by Congress MPs and 25 percent of those by the BJP were also on local problems.

Looking into the chief concerns of most regions, the PRS study found that nearly 40 percent of the issues political parties raised in parliament were about roads and rail infrastructure, education, water and sanitation - 25 percent on road and rail network and over 14 percent on other infrastructure.

Political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan says the reason for the regional parties taking centrestage is that the national players “have lost touch with the ground”.

“They (national parties) are now controlled by image managers, pollsters, computer whizkids, who have no idea of the real India,” he says, adding that the political wisdom that used to come from the grassroots is missing.

“This explains why nearly half of the Lok Sabha seats were won by regional parties” in the 2004 elections.

Between them, the Congress and the BJP won 283 out of 543 elected seats in the Lok Sabha. The rest were bagged by Left and regional parties.

Amir Ullah Khan, director of the Bangalore Management Academy and an associate of the India Development Foundation, added that populist promises were acquiring more prominence in manifestos of the national parties as they could not find workable election issues.

“It is not surprising when Chandrababu Naidu (of the Telugu Desam Party) announces a cash transfer scheme, Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh chief minister) doles out subsidised grain and now the Congress and the BJP promise cheap rice and wheat,” Khan told IANS.

He said in 2004 a reformist move was initiated with the Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management Act that aimed at bringing down fiscal deficit from six percent to 1.5 percent and revenue deficit from four percent to zero by this year.

“It did work reasonably with fiscal deficit falling to 2.5 percent and revenue deficit to 1.5 percent; but these populist measures, if implemented, would send all this for a toss,” Khan said.

“But nobody bothers about fiscal profligacy. No party is opposing this thanks to political expediency.”

(Darshan Desai can be contacted at darshan.d@ians.in)

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